Knowing isn't doing
One of my blogs dealt with problem solving. In a nutshell, I discussed the need to fully understand what the root of the problem is before trying to solve it. Once you know the cause, get ideas on how to fix it. Talk to people. Google it. Figure it out.
What I didn't mention is that knowing the root cause and the solution of a problem is as useless as a two legged tripod. Until you implement the solution, you still have the problem. Implementation is the third leg of the tripod; implementation fixes problems. It's the "doing" phase of problem solving.
So in this case, having two out of three is not a good thing. Here are some examples of knowing the problem and knowing the solution:
- Problem: I'm gaining weight. Solution: Eat right and exercise.
- Problem: I know I should floss. Solution: Floss.
- Problem: My dog doesn't listen to my commands. Solution: Spend time everyday training your dog.
I could list many more examples. So could you. We are surrounded by problems that have known solutions. As we know, the problems remain unless we do something about them. This involves a lifestyle or culture change; and that's the hard part.
Why not implement a solution?
Why is it so hard? My theory is twofold. We are creatures of habit and we take the path of least resistance. These traits aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Finding the easiest way to do something and then sticking with it is admirable. It’s what we strive to do; it’s our goal. We want this behavior to become a habit. We even refer to them as “good habits”.
In the problem/solution examples above though, the current lifestyle that causes the problem is the habit. Changing the habit is harder than doing the same thing. Change is not the path of least resistance; so we stay with our old ways. We live with the problem even though we know how to fix it.
Break the cycle
How do you break through that cycle and change the culture or your lifestyle? First, everyone involved in solving the problem needs to agree there is a problem. This is not as silly as it sounds. We live in a big world with a lot of people with a lot of opinions. Just because you view something as a problem doesn’t mean everyone does. If people don't understand there is a problem, they won't be invested in the solution. There could be a need for some education here. Perhaps others don’t view the situation as a problem because they don’t see the negative impact on others due to the situation. Perhaps they don’t have your insight. It’s important you pick your battles; invest your time solving the big problems.
Second, the solution can't be more painful than the problem. The more pain the problem causes, the more open people are to various options to fix the problem. Doctors see this all the time. After a heart attack, many patients have keen interest in eating right or quitting smoking. Before the heart attack, such suggestions may have been waved off as “nagging”. Heart attacks have a way of focusing the mind. The solution now looks much more appealing than doing nothing.
Last, but not least, stick with the solution. Follow-up to make sure everyone is working towards the solution. People need time to make the solution a new habit. Guide them through this transition phase to keep them on track. Plus, your interest speaks volumes as to the importance of the solution. If you lose interest, so does everybody else.